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Golden Eagle

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Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Melissa Mayntz

One of the largest raptors in North America, the golden eagle is a majestic and stunning bird with its chocolate brown plumage and golden sheen on the nape.

Common Name:

Golden eagle

Scientific Name:

Aquila chrysaetos

Appearance:

  • Bill: Strongly hooked, black with yellow cere
  • Size: 30-35 inches long with 84-inch wingspan, powerful body
  • Colors: Dark brown, tawny gold, yellow
  • Markings: Body is solid dark brown with tawny gold feathers on the back of the head and nape of neck. Legs are yellow but heavily feathered. Faint gray bands may show on tail. Juvenile birds have white markings, especially in wings. Male and female birds look alike but females are distinctly larger.

Foods:

Small mammals, rabbits, marmots, reptiles, grouse, deer, cranes

Habitat and Migration:

Golden eagles are found in all habitats including coastal areas, mountains and plains from Alaska to Mexico. Greater numbers of birds are found in western Canada and the United States west of the Rocky Mountains. Golden eagles are rarer in the eastern United States and Midwest and a single pair of birds may require up to 60 square miles of territory. Northern populations migrate seasonally.

Vocalizations:

As a bird of prey, golden eagles are largely silent but will use yelping calls near the nest and small whistles as part of courtship behavior. Calls may be made singly or in longer strings.

Behavior:

Golden eagles hunt by soaring and perching patiently near feeding areas to watch for movement that would indicate a vulnerable animal. They typically hunt singly or in mated pairs but groups are rare. Ambush hunting tactics include flying close to the ground to surprise prey.

Golden eagles have a powerful flight pattern and they frequently soar on thermal air currents as they search for prey.

Reproduction:

Birds mate for life but renew their bond through annual courtship displays. Nests are built on cliff faces or in dead trees and will be reused for generations. A pair of golden eagles will produce one brood of 1-3 eggs every two years. Eggs are incubated by both male and female birds for 43-45 days, and the fledgling stage lasts for 66-70 days as both parents feed the young birds.

Attracting Golden Eagles:

Golden eagles are rare in backyards but can be found close to urban areas where sufficient wild habitat exists to support their prey, particularly in western regions. These birds are more likely to be seen in rural or wild areas with mountainous terrain and visible perching areas that provide superb hunting grounds.

Similar Birds:

  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  • Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
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